As you show homes to prospective clients, you may find yourself fielding numerous questions about solar power. If the property is already solar-equipped, great! Home buyers are becoming more and more aware of the financial and environmental benefits of solar, so solar power is a strong selling point. The owners will save on their energy bill every month and have the comfort of knowing that they’re helping to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
But what if the home you’re selling doesn’t have solar power? Be prepared to answer prospective buyer’s questions by giving them facts about solar power. The decision is theirs, of course. But if a buyer plans to stay in a home 15 years or longer, they can recoup the costs of solar power installation and save significantly on their energy costs. In addition, their installation of solar power will make the home more marketable if and when they decide to move.
It’s very likely that you’ll get some questions like this. In recent years, solar power has become and more integrated into homes. It’s also increasingly popular. The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) reports that in 2014, professionals installed 186,000 residential solar power systems, a 50 percent increase from 2013. They also noted that 2014 marked the third consecutive year of 50 percent-plus growth in solar power. Last year, Americans installed more than 66,000 solar systems just in the first quarter. In total, roughly 700,000 U.S. homes have solar power.
Explaining Solar Power
When showing a home, always be prepared to give a brief explanation of solar power to your prospective buyers.
Creating solar power systems involves placing solar panels on the house or property. They’re usually installed on the roof, but ground systems are also available. The panels draw energy from the sun and convert it to energy the home can use.
A home uses the solar energy it has first for all the energy needs: light, heat, appliances, computers and more. If the home needs more energy than the solar energy can provide, a device called an inverter switches the house to the electric grid and draws it from the power company.
What happens if a home’s solar power produces more power than the house needs? In some localities, the homeowners can feed the excess back to the grid and receive energy credits. In others, it may be possible to sell the extra power back to the energy company and profit it on it. Some areas reduce the home’s energy bill by the amount of solar power fed into their grid.
Do you need a sunny climate for solar power to work optimally? No! The sun is always out during the day, even in cloudy and foggy weather. The panels pick up sun through the clouds and humidity. Everywhere in the United States receives enough sun for a solar power system. When evaluating a property for solar power, it’s very helpful to look at a map of sun hours that area receives.
If the property’s roof is heavily shaded or surrounded by tall buildings that block sun, it’s a good idea to consult a solar contractor about whether the property is a viable candidate for solar. Although the sun is always out, it’s possible that trees or buildings can block it.
Some buyers may believe that solar power is expensive and time-consuming to install. In fact, in the past several years, solar panel manufacturers have significantly lowered their prices. Installation is far quicker and can be done in a matter of days.
One consideration you should alert your clients to is the state of the roof. Because most solar power systems sit on the roof, they aren’t a reasonable option if the roof will need to be replaced in five years or so. A new roof would require removing all the solar panels and putting them back.
Costs of Installing Solar Power
Solar power installation costs can be initially high. Prospective homebuyers need to assess how much power they would save going forward, to get a sense of when they would break even. They also need to know about tax incentives and other financing options. These two work together to lower installation costs.
Here is a helpful example. A suburban New York State home generates a $100 utility bill every month, or $1,200 per year. To cover this amount of energy, the home requires a 4.5 kW solar system. The price of that system is $16,000. Federal and state tax credits and energy incentives kick in enough that the end cost to the homeowner is only $6,800.
Given the $1,200 cost for utilities, the homeowner will recover the $6,800 cost in just six years, assuming that there are no financing and interest costs.
After that, the homeowner can save up to $1,200 yearly. Over 20 years, that amounts to a cost savings of $24,000 in utility bills.
With this scenario in mind, it’s a good idea to research the tax and other credits available in your city and state to provide helpful information.
Solar power is much more common and much more affordable than it once was. Because of its popularity, your clients will ask about it. Be prepared to serve them with this general guide and some useful advice.